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February 15, 2013

Bulletin #164: Thank you

Dear friends –

First, to those of you who responded to our recent requests for financial support (in Bulletins 162 and 163) – thank you very muchWe couldn’t work without you, materially or morally.

Some of the contributions that have come in these past few weeks carry great moral weight for us especially, because we know many of you are in straightened financial circumstances.  Some even tend toward the widow’s mite – powerful indeed!  We know we must effectively convey from you, to our nuclear decisionmakers in Congress and elsewhere, your longing for policies which will give our children better chances for survival and happiness.

Yes, without truly radical changes in policy – changes that can hardly be discussed within the limits of polite liberal discourse – most of our children will face existential challenges that far exceed today’s.  Carol Miller, a tireless advocate for New Mexico communities, quotes Thomas Paine:

If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.

In December and January, 66 (4%) of you responded with donations.  This is quite wonderful, leaving aside for the moment the question of the silent 96%.

While we do not conflate involvement with the Study Group with political engagement overall, we are quite worried that many good people think they are being active politically when they are not – not really.  Don’t shoot the messenger, but it must be pointed out that we are getting precisely the government and policies we have chosen by our collective passivity, accommodation, feel-good “activism,” and what amounts to desperate attachment to a way of life that is leaving us.

From this desk I see very few trenchant efforts, even in many so-called “activist” circles.  We do see a lot of talk, but there is very little walk – and most of the “walk” is not accompanied by the introspection and investigation leads to greater commitment and effectiveness, reconciling realities and ideals on deeper and more powerful levels, synthesizing doubt, faith, and action to fire up our lives as beacons for others.

Instead, much of what we see in the way of “activism,” across the full spectrum of issues and forms, ends up being a series of shallow or even pathetic gestures, understood by everybody involved to be just that – just so much shallow opinion, political spectacle, entertainment, or sociability merely.

No doubt about it, there is an unhealthy disconnect between what people know about the extreme gravity of the problems we face on the one hand, and our shallow responses on the other.  Che Guevara said, “...the true revolutionary is guided by strong feelings of love.”  Where that love is present, a way will appear.

The problem is not any flaw in the nobility of peoples’ spirit, but rather the triviality of the preoccupations that get in our way.

Circumstances are not rigid and unyielding, but our habits are rigid…Did a man try heroism, magnanimity, truth, sincerity, and find that there was no advantage in them?  That it was a vain endeavor?  Of course we do not expect that our paradise will be a garden. (H.D. Thoreau, letter to Harry Blake, 3/27/1848)

Actually, that is precisely what we often do hear: the complaint that the paradise of politics and worldly affairs, populated as it is largely by so many fine people working hard for the common good, isn’t all that it might be.  No kidding, but so what?

We all start out with imperfect understanding and flawed approaches to the very difficult problems we face.  Yeoman perseverance, that draws upon and uses all our faculties, will perfect them, its alchemy refining us and all our relations and enriching the public sphere.  “Character,” said Heraclitus, “is fate.”

If you have been reading these bulletins carefully, or working with us in other ways, you know that you are now among those who must come to grips, one way or another, with the emergency nature of our situation.  For us, ignorance is no longer an excuse.  You know we must act, as effectively as possible.

It is easy for us, in such a situation, to grasp at straws – or to be stunned into passivity, like a deer in the headlights.  Or we may think that we can somehow escape the burden of our time by withdrawing into some hypothetical, separate peace.

There is no such peace.  There will not be “peace in our time.”

[O]bliteration of “false hopes,” [Clive Hamilton] says, requires an intellectual knowledge and an emotional knowledge. The first is attainable. The second, because it means that those we love, including our children, are almost certainly doomed to insecurity, misery and suffering within a few decades, if not a few years, is much harder to acquire. To emotionally accept impending disaster, to attain the gut-level understanding that the power elite will not respond rationally to the devastation of the ecosystem, is as difficult to accept as our own mortality. The most daunting existential struggle of our time is to ingest this awful truth—intellectually and emotionally—and continue to resist the forces that are destroying us.  (Chris Hedges, “The Myth of Human Progress,” 1/13/13)

This “insecurity, misery, and suffering” is not decades away.  It is not even continents away.  For millions of people, it’s here right now.  Author William Gibson famously remarked, “The future is already here – it's just not very evenly distributed.”  It’s going to be more “distributed” soon, during the present decade.  The sooner we and our governments understand what is happening, and why, and what can be done, the better it will be.

It is a rude awakening.  Get ready to be called rude, because being truthful means breaking with social convention, for compassion’s sake.  There is nothing nice about our situation.  Our house is burning and now is not the time for tip-toeing around.

I haven’t said anything in this Bulletin about how, precisely, you can help.  We have said that before.  Here is what we said in Bulletin 146, almost a year ago:

Frequently people ask us, “What can I do to help?”  When we say, “educate yourself and talk to your friends and associates,” people tend to become abashed.

Please don’t be.  Please do talk to your friends.  And if, among these, some are interested in the Study Group or find our work useful, please ask them to become sustaining donors (here’s the form, pdf), or to make a one-time contribution (electronically, here, or by check to the address below) of any appropriate size.  Contributing by check avoids a 3% fee.

We will be happy to meet with you and your friends as a group.  We will try to follow up on any other concrete suggestion you may have if it is within our reach.

I am asking for your help in reaching potential donors, but this request is not just about resources for the Study Group.  It’s also about all of us being serious about the future of nuclear weapons – and for we New Mexicans, the future of our state.

If we care enough we will find a way to speak and to act effectively.  If you are looking for an easy or risk-free way to effect major social and political change you might want to rethink your assumptions.

If you want you can share today’s profile of our organization (“Activist's experience, passion culminate in LANL project delay”) with your friends.

Again, please write, or call (505-265-1200).

This weekend I am headed to Washington again for the coming week.  Last year I was there for nine full weeks of meetings and briefings.  (Thanks to the kindness of friends, housing has usually been free.)  As you all know, Congress is in something like a paralyzed uproar.  We  will be meeting with many staff members and officials, some of whom actively seek our help, and will be attending an important conference of nuclear industry managers and government officials, to which I was invited.

Here are a couple of recent products from us:

Some of you may be interested in this anonymous essay, which bears on the future of the nuclear weapons laboratories.  We share this author’s concerns and have verified his or her thesis with some of those directly involved.

That’s it for now.

Greg Mello, for the Study Group

P.S. If you are not a subscriber to Climate Progress, maybe you should be.  We don’t always agree with the editor’s politics, but that blog is an outstanding way to keep up with the gravest threat we face.

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